The crisis of the American police: 4 ways to change things for the better

The world in which will be much less the police, is possible. VOX says that the experts think about might look like this world.

Кризис американской полиции: 4 способа изменить ситуацию к лучшему

Photo: Shutterstock

In the night of Friday, June 12, police shot and killed Reichard Brooks, 27-year-old black man, near the service drive-thru fast food restaurant Wendy’s in Atlanta. Police arrived after receiving complaints that Brooks was sleeping in his car, which blocked the passage and forcing other cars to go around him.

Video from the incident shows that communication begins quietly. Brooks repeatedly asks to allow him to leave the car in the Parking lot and go to the house of sisters, which, according to him, is close by. But the officer insists that he passed the field sobriety test, which detects that the level of alcohol in the blood of the Brooks slightly exceeds the permissible limit. The officer tries to handcuff Brooks, the man resists and starts a physical fight. Brooks grabs the Taser the officer starts to run and turns to put it to use. After a few seconds the man lies motionless on the ground, having received three bullets.

It was not the first case when, during the interaction police officer killed a black, sleeping in a parked car. It wasn’t even the first time in recent weeks. At 5:30 am on memorial Day — the day of the murder of George Floyd — Dion Johnson was sleeping in his car on the side of the highway in North Phoenix when he was approached by a soldier from Arizona who planned to arrest Johnson for “suspicion of violating the rules of driving”. According to the report of the officer, Johnson resisted arrest and reached for the weapons officer. Officer shot and killed Johnson in self-defense.

In both cases there is the same basic question: why are the armed representatives of government chose the answer that these men were sleeping in their cars? The same can be asked about a dispute concerning a (possibly) fake $ 20 bills (case of George Floyd). Incorrect invasion find drugs. A traffic ticket. Selling untaxed cigarettes. None of these violations did not begin with violence, but each ended with the death of a black man or woman killed by armed police. Stories abound with examples of such situations, police kill whites, and native Americans, and Hispanics and Asian Americans.

This dynamic reflects the structure of policing in the United States. The same officers who write reports on accidents and respond to noise complaints, can also shoot and kill. This means that one police officer has a monopoly on the entire continuum of force, from casual conversations to aggressive arrest, shooting and killing. The situation can turn from a quiet conversation to the use of lethal force in a matter of seconds, completely at their discretion. If the one who answered the phone, did not have tasers and firearms, Brooks would still be alive today.

Many European countries are considering the use of lethal force as a narrow specialization and accordingly structure its police forces.

“If this had happened in the UK, the first would appeal to Brooks, would be the support of the community, says Colin Rogers, a former police inspector of the UK, became a criminologist at the University of South Wales. — It is, of course, would not be armed. And even if this interaction went wrong, help would come to the officer, armed with only a baton and handcuffs, not a gun.”

In 2015, the Guardian investigation has shown that the British police for 24 years in England and Wales shot and killed less people (55) than American police for the first 24 days of 2015 in the United States. This discrepancy can be explained only partially by differences in armed clashes: American police shot and killed an unarmed man 161 in 2015. This is partly explained by exceptionally high levels of gun ownership in America, which the police are constantly in a state of heightened alertness.

This is also due to the fact that in the UK public officials, who bear the vast majority of responsibilities for providing public security, from patrolling the streets to respond to non — violent crimes do not carry firearms. Only about 10% of British police carry guns, and they mostly work in teams of highly skilled professionals whose full-time work day is to answer calls as possible threats such as active shooter or terrorist attack.

What if the US decides to do the same? What if amid widespread calls for dofinansirovaniyu departments in the US to do traditional police — defined by the ability to deploy potentially lethal force as a narrow specialization? How would look the world? That is no longer the police will do and who will take her place?

“I can easily imagine a world in which Rashard Brooks the night will take you home and get gunned down, says a Professor of law at Georgetown University Christy Lopez. For me the question is whether we have the will and desire to create a system of social security that will make this world a reality.”

Over the past few weeks the author of this article Rog Karma talked with more than a dozen sociologists, criminologists, experts in the field of police, nonprofit leaders and legal scholars to better understand the range of alternatives that exist in the current universal model of police response in the United States. The author wanted to know what alternatives can be developed to solve unique challenges such as the overwhelming presence of firearms, intertwined history of racism and policing and the relatively high level of violent crime in the United States. Here are four ideas that they offered.

Idea 1. The establishment of specialized departments of traffic regulation

The vast majority of the interactions of civilians with the police happens on the road. According to the report of the Department of justice for 2015, of the 50 million Americans who came into contact with police for a year, $ 25 million was stopped in the machines on which they traveled or where there were as passengers (black Americans were the most likely targets of attention). Another 8 million people were involved in a car accident. And many of the 9 million who called the police to report crimes, reported accidents on the roads.

There is no justifiable reason for armed police officers should be responsible for road safety. Police are not hired for a particular talent in the field of traffic control, reporting accidents and prescribing penalties. And deployment of armed officers to perform such routine tasks creates a risk of unnecessary use of lethal force in millions of collisions every year. Police killing of Filanda of Castile in 2016, was one example (among many others) that a common stop on the road was a disaster — and that just would not have happened if the officer didn’t have a gun. The arrest of Sandra bland because she has no signal lane change, and her subsequent suicide, is another example.

It is easy to imagine the transfer of most functions of the road patrol to specialized staff — this is done for many other roles in public safety, such as inspection of restaurants and food. On the roads of England working unarmed officers traffic that travel in different vehicles, and many other road obligations of the country is left to the “officers of public support”, which can issue fines, but without weapons, and they have no authority to arrest.

Some US cities are even starting to take steps in this direction, mainly due to the fact that armed police officers is a very expensive method of traffic control. In 2017 the city of New Orleans approved the Department NOPD, hiring third-party officers to work with accidents where no injuries and no fear that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or any substances.

Idea 2. The participation of intermediaries in the resolution of minor disputes

A huge number of calls to the police due to the relatively small interpersonal disputes: disputes concerning noise, illegal entry into someone else’s territory, bad pet behavior or bullying; disputes between spouses, family members, roommates, home or neighborhood.

Without a broker what begins as a minor dispute can escalate into violence. But there is no particular reason for mediation should be entrusted to the armed police; in any case, the traditional police, as a rule, unnecessarily exacerbates these situations, which leads to arrests or worse.

That is why a number of countries such as the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and South Africa, has created a special class of people called “professionals in the field of public security”. They are unarmed, they have most of the formal police powers, and they perform such duties as working with youth, mediation in conflicts, patrols in the communities and the fight against crime and disorder at a low level. The preliminary results of their impact on crime and the welfare of the community was promising.

“The idea was that the support staff of the community [the British version of this role] played the role of a bridge between communities and police, says Rogers. — Since we are unarmed, we maintain order in the communities and together with them, not at them.”

This approach was first used in many programs “reaching the streets” in the U.S., such as Cure Violence and Advance Peace, which are “violence interrupters” and “peacekeepers” from the local community, to mediate conflicts before they erupt into violence at a higher level. Scientific evaluation of these efforts showed that non-mediation can be very successful when executed correctly.

“If someone is angry or thinks about shooting, violence interrupters are almost always able to calm this man and stop him from the action, says the founder of Cure Violence, Gary Slutkin. — Aim to contain the incident before it becomes a police matter. If nothing happened is not a police matter.”

The author of this article asked A. T. Mitchell, former “violence interrupter” who now runs a program “Cure Violence’s ManUp” in new York, about what he thinks about the dispute between George Floyd and cashier of the store who claimed that Floyd used a fake bill to $ 20.

“In this situation, needed someone to resolve the conflict, Mitchell said. — Whether there was [Floyd] to apologize? Did he understand at all what is happening? We don’t know. But I’ll tell you something: if we called, we would be able to come between them, and this man would still be alive.”

You can imagine how city personnel hire “social mediators” as employees of the local health this is the Department who are trained in the conflict resolution, applied psychology and management relations. Like their European counterparts, these intermediaries would be completely unarmed, would not have had formal police powers and wore uniforms different from traditional officers. They could spend their time on building relationships with members of the local community and maintaining a presence in schools, neighborhoods and public places with high attendance.

The city can even develop a special room 2-11 or 3-11, to interested neighbors, spouses or citizens can call when they witnessed a dispute, and can route appropriate calls 9-11 in the mediation group community. If any of these disputes will begin to escalate into violence, community intermediaries can have a special system silent alert (similar to those that elderly people use to obtain health care) to call armed police for reinforcement.

“Imagine a world where employees are the primary responders can do to calm the situation so that people could continue their lives and no one ends up being they would be arrested — or worse, says Barry Friedman, Director of the police project at new York University. In this world we don’t need so many police officers who carry weapons”.

Кризис американской полиции: 4 способа изменить ситуацию к лучшему

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Idea 3. The creation of mobile units to respond to crisis situations

Often the role of police moves from mediation to a kind of social work, usually with the participation of people such as the homeless, the drunk, abusing substances or suffering from mental illness.

The results can be catastrophic. About half of prisoners have a mental illness. About a quarter of the fatalities, law enforcement touch the person with mental health problems (and these numbers may be severely underestimated). Massively disproportionate number of police calls and arrests in cities across the country affects the homeless. In Portland, Oregon, the city’s homeless population accounted for 52% of all arrests in the city in 2017, although they make up less than 3% of the population of Portland.

“You wouldn’t try to build a house with a jackhammer, says Zachary Norris, Director of the Center for human rights at the Centre of Ella Baker. — But that’s what we do when we entrust the police to solve public health problems, such as substance abuse, homelessness and mental illness.”

One of the most promising alternatives police model of social work is a program called Cahoots, collaboration between local police and public service under the name White Bird Clinic, working in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. In these cities the police are not sent on every call 9-11. Instead, about 20% of the calls — often calls the homeless, drug addicts, drunks or mentally ill — routed to a separate group of specialists, well trained in counselling mental health, social work, and resolve crisis situations.

Staff Cahoots waving a weapon of any kind. They are dressed in black hoodies and listening to police radio through headphones and purposefully speak in calm tones, using inviting body language. Their role is closer to the role of “ambulance” on social issues than to the traditional role of the police: they assess the situation, help the person as best you can, and then if necessary, refer it to a higher level of care or service. If the situation escalates, they can call the police for backup, but this is rare. In 2019 Cahoots received about 24 000 calls, and the police support had to call less than 1% of cases.

“For 30 years we have never had any serious injuries or deaths for which our team were responsible,’ said ebony Morgan, a crisis worker from Cahoots. — I think that’s important.”

To top it off, Cahoots saves about $ 15 million a year in police departments the Eugene and Springfield, according to the clinic coordinator Ben Brubaker, while taking care of the incidents that otherwise would have to handle law enforcement or emergency departments is a much more expensive solutions.

Cahoots model easily scales in other places. And legislators in cities across the country, including San Francisco, Oakland and Minneapolis, are considering to do so.

Government cities could also think of ways to build and improve this model. The main limitation of the existing programme is the fact that its jurisdiction is only in “non-criminal” calls. This means that regular police can send to address situations of crisis workers in Cahoots much better prepared.

There are two possible remedies. One of them is decriminalization of issues such as addiction and homelessness.

“Currently, police action to combat criminalization of homelessness due to city laws, says Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director, National law center on homelessness and poverty. Usually calls about homeless concern such issues as the sleep in the wrong places, or begging, which should not be solved by law enforcement. Change the laws that criminalize such behavior, can expand the range of actions that may be performed by a mobile unit to respond to crises such as Cahoots”.

Another idea is to deploy a hybrid of the units of the response, consisting of both police officers and mobile crisis services, in situations that normally would be beyond the competence of the Cahoots. For example, the police can call on the scene to stop a brutal fight. But it is easy to imagine that the team Cahoots first will come and try to defuse the situation, while the police wait nearby out of sight below them called only if deemed necessary.

“I would be very happy to imagine an entirely different model first-responders, says Friedman. — This means that people learn in a completely different way, distribute these people differently and give them different reward system than we have given police”.

Idea 4. Experiment with self-policing community

The first three ideas include decisions that officials of local authorities could quite easily add in the existing models of policing. But what if you completely change the model? What if instead of having to follow the public, the public will give resources to the police?

Just over 20 years ago, the Australian government did just that.

The history of the indigenous community in Australia is full of repression, of cruelty and violence by the state. Describe the relationship between the police and indigenous peoples are read as if they can be extracted from modern African-American experience in the United States (not to mention the indigenous communities in the United States). Writes Harry Blagg, Professor of law at the Charles Darwin University in Australia:

“Historically the police was an instrument of control, limit or monitor access of indigenous peoples into the dominant white community. According to criminologists, this led to a legacy of excessive policing against indigenous peoples in the public sphere — where they can pose a threat to public order — and the lack of policing (“lack of maintenance” might be a better term) for indigenous peoples in their own communities.”

This began to change in 1990-ies, when a government Commission found that the prisons were too many representatives of indigenous peoples as a result of systemic prejudice. The authors came to the conclusion that the only way to end this injustice — to completely rethink the way the interaction of Australians with the criminal justice system.

One recommendation they made was that the government funded indigenous forms of self-control community, such as the Julalikari Night Patrol in Northern Australia. The idea of night patrols was simple: to improve public safety by creating a buffer between the indigenous peoples and the police. Here’s how sociologist from Princeton’s Patrick Sharkey described his visit to patrol Nyoongar in Perth, Australia, in his book “the Uneasy peace: the great reduction of crime, the revival of urban life and the next war violence” in 2018:

“I joined the team headed by Annie and Rachel, two remarkable women, which was wonderful to watch in action. I watched as they tried to calm the man without a shirt who was drunk and belligerent front of the crowded bar. I saw how they talked to the person who felt bad, lying on a bench in the middle of the town square, and remained with him until the ambulance worker asked him questions and in the end took it on treatment…

Problems arise during the shift every night, but the main purpose of patrols is to maintain presence in public places where young people spend time in search of the natives, who look like they need some help, and also to give anyone who causes problems, the ability to cool off or go home before the police intervene. Sometimes the intervention of a patrol team is accompanied by a stern warning, but usually it is accompanied by a warm smile”.

Reading this description, it’s hard not to think about how differently I would go the case of Rashard Brooks or Dion Johnson, if on duty were members of the night patrol. Maybe they would take Brooks to his sister’s place for the night. Maybe that would take Johnson to the local orphanage to get him sober and to feed a hot Breakfast. The police no one would even call.

Hundreds of these night patrols were organized in indigenous communities across Australia, many of which are funded by the government. Units lacking formal police powers, but their legitimacy stems from the fact that they are created public councils, approved by the elders and use local knowledge and work within the laws and culture of indigenous peoples.

In many respects the patrol was extremely successful.

“In our days the relationship between night patrols and the police in General is excellent, says Blagg. — The police can’t do without them.”

The police have a permanent presence in most communities with night patrols. They will intervene to calm or make an arrest, but usually only when with them communicates the patrol. One study found that patrols in the three districts were able to reduce the number of arrests by about 30%.

The approach based on public security were also introduced in some of the most violent areas of America many programs “reaching the streets”, the largest and most carefully evaluated of which is the Cure for Global Violence.

As night Australian patrols, the “violence interrupters” Cure Violence are local residents with close ties with the public, many of whom are in prison. Their job is to build relationships throughout the community so that they knew about the ongoing disputes, interpersonal conflicts and potential collisions before it escalates into violence by the civilian population, or comes to police intervention.

“We have a level of confidence to the community that the police will never be, says Mitchell. — This is because we only hire those who live in the neighborhood. Information comes to us long before it gets to the police.”

The role of interrupters of violence goes beyond a simple mediation on the spot. They provide guidance and economic opportunities to individuals who are considered “at risk” of committing violence. After violent skirmishes they mobilize the family and friends of the victims and respected community leaders to prevent revenge. And in the quiet time they work on the spread of social norms of non-violence.

Program Cure Violence was implemented in 25 U.S. cities, often in areas where there is a high level of violence with a firearm. Numerous independent analyses of the programs in such places as new York, Chicago, and Baltimore, showed that this model can potentially lead to a significant reduction in violent crimes and violence with a firearm for the share, which will cost the police efforts.

Then one of the options is to local legislators just extended the Cure Violence model from one or two districts to the whole city. Mayor bill de Blasio recently announced that it will invest additional $ 10 million in the expansion of the program to 20 new York city neighborhoods with the most violence with a weapon.

“Time is more than suitable for large investments in Cure Violence,” says Caterina Roman, a sociologist from Temple University, which conducted a study of the organization’s approach. It indicates that, although it was never tested to the extent required at the moment, it is also one of the few models that have been shown to successfully make a community with a high degree of violence is much less violent, not applying the tools of arrest and detention.

Another option for local legislators in the United States to experiment with approaches to community policing. Sharkey believes that city officials should combine local NGOs, community leaders and residents to form a new public Association, which is mandated to plan a new model of public security in a predetermined number of areas.

The group will receive funding equivalent to what will get the police Department in that jurisdiction. They will be allowed to use funds at their discretion. They will draw up plans the relationship of their community with the local police Department, which will probably serve as a kind of reserve in case of aggravation of the situation. Then they will be given not less than 10 years for the experiment with a careful monitoring and evaluation.

“The communities themselves have to address these issues, says Tracy Kesey, a former police officer and co-founder of the Center for policing equity. — Who do you think should provide services? Who should be responsible for public safety? These questions should be addressed to the community.”

These ideas may fail — but the current system already fails

There is no guarantee that any of these proposals will be successful in all areas. When it comes to the cops of the alternatives, even the best of the existing models have not been tested at scale, and it is impossible to say how different communities will react to them. Implementation of any idea in this list will be a relatively uncharted territory.

This means that there will be failures. Everything will go wrong. The system will break. The program will collapse. In some places the violence may temporarily increase. Sometimes the “violence interrupter” or mobile crisis worker get seriously injured or die.

But the current system already represents a kind of deep failure. Americans live in a country that built the largest system of incarceration on earth, where agents of the state killed unarmed members of the communities they should protect and terrorize those who are still alive. Where peaceful protesters are beaten in the streets.

Communities across the country already live with failure every day. This failure, at least in part, due to the fact that police in the United States is responsible — from road patrol to mediation, and crisis response — which increase the risk of unnecessary violence.

There are many models of how it would be possible to transfer these duties to personnel not belonging to the police, and thus make the use of lethal force is much more rare. The question is whether Americans are ready to give them a chance?



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